Housing is a human right: Stop protecting profits over people

Larisha is a single mother and the caretaker for her disabled uncle. Due to the pandemic and her inability to find work, she stopped paying rent in July 2020. The state of emergency and the moratorium were in place at the time to keep her and her family off the street, but she still applied for whatever rental assistance programs she could find.

She was allotted only $500 toward the cost of her rent. When she received her stimulus payment, she attempted to pay toward the back rent, but her landlord refused her payment without the back rent paid in full. 

Throughout the pandemic, we heard the governor and other government officials urge tenants to work with their landlords to come up with a repayment plan, but there wasn’t the same urgency put on landlords to actually cooperate in that process. As the housing market continues to climb in Las Vegas, many landlords are even more motivated to see their tenants evicted — even in the middle of a pandemic, when it puts human life and public health at risk. Real estate investing is a business venture, but housing is a human rights issue and we cannot continue to protect profits over human life.   

Larisha came to Make it Work Nevada, a member of the Nevada Housing Justice Alliance, to see what else she could do to keep her family from being homeless. Our organizing team helped her get the Eviction Protection Declaration paperwork completed and turned in to her landlord to protect her from being removed from her home. However, the landlord simply ignored the paperwork and continued with the eviction process. A week after turning in her CDC paperwork, a constable showed up at Larisha’s door and forced her family out of their home.

Her son was frightened as he saw uniformed officers with hands on their weapons while they forcibly removed his family, including an uncle who is a disabled veteran, in less than 10 minutes. Families should never be forcibly removed from their homes without the time and opportunity to make arrangements to stay in the home or to relocate — especially during a pandemic, but even under normal circumstances. What happened to Larisha and her family should not happen to anyone. 

Without protections for tenants, we take the humanity out of housing. That is why passing Assembly Bill 161 and other tenant protections is so important. While we would love to see a complete ban on summary evictions, we also know that we have to understand the full scope of the problem. 

Another important bill being considered in Nevada’s 81st legislative session is Assembly Bill 141, which would seal COVID-19-related evictions, giving families the opportunity to have a fresh start as the economy begins to recover. Additionally, Senate Bill 218 is being heard, which would eliminate predatory fees for renters, another necessary measure for families doing their best to climb out of this unprecedented time in our country’s history.

While we understand that many real estate investors approach renting as a business, it is the responsibility of elected officials to ensure there are protections in place for tenants as a humanitarian issue.

Alcinia Whiters is the communications manager for Make It Work Nevada, a policy driven organization focused on advocacy and education supporting the long-term health and vitality of Black families.